Story? Only sometimes bored? No

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This is a review of Paul Sweeney‘s session at the International House Barcelona ELT conference, February 2019, by our roving reporter, Georgios Vlassios Kompas. The topic of Storyboards are also featured in the latest (February) newsletter. This is the third of five reviews from the LTSIG strand and two remaining ones will follow over the next few days.

Paul Sweeney

Paul took us to the magic world of stories, storyboarding and endless creativity in the classroom.  Paul’s presentation focused on how we can use storyboards in a variety of ways in the classroom.  Paul started by explaining what storyboards mean and what can we use them in class for.  It’s quite fascinating that we can use different kinds of storyboards for different applications of them in the classroom.

Paul was very meticulous in explaining how storyboards can be used in the classroom and all the great “ingredients” they need to have in order to be successfully used.  Quite importantly, there needs to be a clear focus on the storyboard, what is happening in each frame, why are we using characters, time frames and how is the camera (lens) used.  These are some advanced features that storyboards contain and make the use of them quite fascinating!  Not all of them have to be used each time, teachers can selectively adjust the ones that fit into their classroom practice or the focus they are examining.    

Storyboards can be used for a variety of genres, not limited to poetry, reading comprehension and planning or creating.  Different kinds of formats can be used, like the examples below:

C. Simple storyboard layouts

It was quite interesting to see how some images can be deconstructed in order to be included in storyboards.  A lot of language can be inferred/elicited from students when they are trying to explain a picture and vice versa.    

Further to that, Paul explained some notions about storyboarding as there seems to be some confusion in relation to it.  Primarily storyboarding is useful for everyone!  It may start from early ages, Young Learners, but it is also very useful for adult learners.  Who doesn’t like a good story?  He also pointed out, that storyboards can talk about fictional and non-fictional narratives, which I thought was very interesting, as it is commonly believed that stories and storyboards are used for fiction only.  Another misconception cleared.    

Paul also made a distinction on how storyboarding can be receptive and productive.  He said that it is productive as it creates scaffolding, it is creative drawing is used as a creative tool.  Finally, it bridges to other media formats. 

Storyboarding can also be receptive.  Take reading for example in YLs.  Don’t they just love reading stories?  Content can be adapted for adults, who doesn’t adore comics?  Storyboarding is also great for improving comprehension, it also brings in other elements like visualization.  Finally, it supports media literacy as students are exposed to many different forms of media. 

Paul gave us what storyboarding is all about with a visual, what a better way!

Although storyboarding may seem easy and boring to some, Paul convinced us otherwise!  It’s interesting, challenging and fascinating!  To begin with, it is a process that requires a lot of structure and hierarchy of things.  You can see some sample storyboards below, where you can see from the information submitted, the seriousness of storyboarding.   Some sample storyboards that were shared by Paul:

Storyboarding was also explored in the virtual world where a more collaborative approach can be taken.  Students can be working together and be scattered around the world. Electronic learning can benefit greatly from storyboarding.  A storyboarding as a classroom practice was shared.  The example was for an e-learning process.

I think that Paul’s presentation was very interesting.  I dare say that I always thought that storyboarding was so boring and was not aware of the benefits it can have to such a diverse audience of learners.  I would definitely suggest taking some time to read the resources that Paul suggested and why not use it in your class sometime soon!  Please find Paul’s great resources that can be used:

Framing the text: using storyboards to engage students with reading David L Bruce  The English Journal Vol. 100, No. 6 (July 2011), pp. 78-85 (8 pages). Available at:


Storyboards in Education


Free PowerPoints Storyboard Templates

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